Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Florida confronted the state’s lawmakers earlier this week demanding gun control reforms. About 100 students from the Parkland school travelled to the state capital of Tallahassee to meet with state legislators of both Republican and Democratic parties, one week after 17 people were killed in the shooting. The victims including 14 students and 3 staff members, were killed by a 19 year old expelled former student with a legally purchased semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle.
A sizeable anti-gun rally was also taking place organized by activist groups and supported by students of local schools. Students at high schools across the country walked out of lessons in solidarity with the #NeverAgain campaign. The campaign has drawn support from multiple quarters. The survivors have also planned a ‘March for our Lives’ rally in Washington on March 24th to push for increased gun-control and school safety.
However, the state legislature was reluctant to act on gun control in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. On Tuesday they voted against a measure to even consider banning the sale of assault weapons like the one used by the shooter, outraging the survivors. The protestors are determined to continue fighting and campaign to bring an end to school shootings.
CNN hosted a town hall on Wednesday where survivors, teachers and parents questioned Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Rep. Ted Deutch about whether their support for banning assault-style rifles and their willingness to accept campaign donations from the NRA. Also present was NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch who conceded that the system for obtaining firearms is flawed and the shooter should never have been able to get his hands on the weapon, but cast part of the blame on mental illness.
Senator Rubio was addressed by grieving father Fred Guttenberg who lambasted his comments this week and those of the President and called on him to do something about guns. Students also pressed the senator on turning down campaign contributions from the NRA but he was non-committal. Faced with a passionate and furious crowd Rubio offered a few concessions including raising the legal age to purchase a rifle and reconsidering his position on high capacity magazines.
One telling moment came when Sen. Rubio argued that it didn’t make sense to ban a specific subset of semi-automatic rifles and said “…you would literally have to ban every semiautomatic rifle that’s sold in the US…”, at which point he was cut off by loud applause and cheers from the crowd leaving no doubt as to their opinion on the matter. Earlier in the day, the President had suggested that arming teachers might prevent shootings of this sort in the future but none of the participants on stage were in favor of that.
The fallout has started to take its toll on the NRA as several corporate marketing partners have severed ties with the organization over its role in the opposition to gun-control. Companies including Delta Airlines, United Airlines and Enterprise have distanced themselves from the NRA and there have also been calls for Amazon to drop the NRA’s video channel from its streaming service.
Heart-breaking incidents like these highlight the need for increased safety in schools and campuses around the country. These protests need to be taken heed of and the hope is that there will be material changes as a result.